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1 Intended for student-use only. Not for profitable reproduction.

| Content derived from cited sources /


consulted works.

1 TECHNICAL WRITING TEACHERS STUDY NOTES (1
st
SEMESTER SCHOOL YEAR 2014 TO 2015)
AMPLIFYING DEFINITIONS

Previous discussions tackled DEFINITION as an
important and fundamental technique in Technical
Writing. Class didactics involved the discussion of
informal vs. formal definition.

Students were also taught how to create formal
sentence definitions using the following components
(in their respective order):

Species;
Genus; and
Differentia

Please refer to the following example:

BIOGAS (species) is a gas (genus) produced by
biological breakdown of organic matter in the absence
of oxygen. (differentia)

Biogas is the species because it is the term to be
defined. Gas is the genus because it is the particular
class where the species (biogas) may be identified
and/or classified. Finally, the characteristic that makes a
biogas distinct from other classes of gases is its quality
of being produced by biological breakdown of organic
matter in the absence of oxygen.

However, it is important to note that technical report
writing may also include a more detailed form of
definition, apart from the usual one-sentence formal
definitions of topics and/or terms.

According to authors Mills and Walter
1
a certain
formal definition can be further amplified by using the
following methods:

1. FURTHER DEFINITION. In some cases,
there would be times when some of the words
used in a definition may not appear clear or
understandable to the readers. If so, the

1
Technical Writing, Fifth Edition
author or technical writer should explain these
unfamiliar words to their readers.

2. CONCERETE EXAMPLES AND
INSTANCES. This is considered by far as the
best of all the available methods of
amplifying a definition. Specific instances or
examples makes an ordinary definition (or
abstract statements) more concrete and
provides a clearer picture of the term being
defined or topic being tackled.

3. COMPARISON AND CONTRAST. This
method aims to relate an unfamiliar term to a
thing familiar or known by the readers. The
new and unfamiliar term or thing is related to
a things (or experiences) already known to
the readers.

4. WORD DERIVATION. This method makes
use of a words etymology (A history of a
word
2
) in unlocking its meaning. It is rarely
used nowadays although it is still proven to be
an effective means to reinforce a terms
definition or meaning.

5. NEGATIVE STATEMENT. According to Mills
and Walter, a technical writer cannot get
anywhere by telling what something is not.
But they suggest that in some cases the
problem of telling what something really
is can be simplified by first clearing up
any confusion the said term (or word)
may have in the readers mind with
closely related terms. (Emphasis
supplied.)

Take the term intersex as an example. The
following information may help a technical
writer to define intersex and clarify that it is
not the same as hermaphrodism.


2
Source: Wordweb

2 Intended for student-use only. Not for profitable reproduction.| Content derived from cited sources /
consulted works.

2 TECHNICAL WRITING TEACHERS STUDY NOTES (1
st
SEMESTER SCHOOL YEAR 2014 TO 2015)
Intersex is a group of conditions where there is
a discrepancy between the external genitals and
the internal genitals (the testes and ovaries).
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Intersex is a general term used for a variety
of conditions in which a person is born with a
reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesnt
seem to fit the typical definitions of female or
male. For example, a person might be born
appearing to be female on the outside, but
having mostly male-typical anatomy on the
inside.
4


xxxxx

The mythological term hermaphrodite
implies that a person is both fully male and fully
female. This is a physiologic impossibility.

The words hermaphrodite and pseudo-
hermaphrodite are stigmatizing and misleading
words. Unfortunately, some medical personnel
still use them to refer to people with certain
intersex conditions, because they still subscribe
to an outdated nomenclature that uses gonadal
anatomy as the basis of sex classification. In a
paper titled Changing the
Nomenclature/Taxonomy for Intersex: A
Scientific and Clinical Rationale, five ISNA-
associated experts recommend that all terms
based on the root hermaphrodite be
abandoned because they are scientifically
specious and clinically problematic. The terms
fail to reflect modern scientific understandings of
intersex conditions, confuse clinicians, harm
patients, and panic parents.


In defining the term intersex using a
negative statement method, the technical

3
Medline Plus (Source link:
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001669.ht
m, last visited on July 6, 2014, 7:23PM)
4
Intersex Society of North America (source link:
http://www.isna.org/faq/what_is_intersex, last visited on
July 6, 2014, 7:26PM)
writer may say that intersex is NOT
hermaphrodism because being
hermaphrodite implies that a person is
both fully male and fully female which is a
physiologic impossibility. Whereas, the term
intersex is more encompassing and
scientifically acceptable term since it
includes all conditions involving a
discrepancy between the external genitals
and the internal genitals (the testes and
ovaries).

6. PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION. This method
makes use of describing an objects physical
appearance. This is especially useful in
describing tangible objects.
5


7. ANALYSIS. This method tells what steps
comprise a process, what functional parts
make up a certain machine or device, or
what constituents or properties make up a
substance.
6
It breakdowns a thing or idea to
chunks or components that are more
relatable, understandable, or that are
simpler. Moreover, this method is applicable
to many subjects.

8. BASIC PRINCIPLE. This method is much
more applicable in making process or
mechanism descriptions. FOR EXAMPLE
Mycocardial Infarction (heart attack) makes
use of the basic principle in medicine that
decreased oxygen supply to a body organ
or tissue (i.e. heart muscles) leads to
cellular damage.

9. CAUSE AND EFFECT. Using this method,
the technical writer may further define
myocardial infarction by including what
causes such condition, or what effects this

5
Tendero, et. al
6
Supra footnote 1

3 Intended for student-use only. Not for profitable reproduction.| Content derived from cited sources /
consulted works.

3 TECHNICAL WRITING TEACHERS STUDY NOTES (1
st
SEMESTER SCHOOL YEAR 2014 TO 2015)
condition have in relation to the normal
functions of the human body.

10. LOCATION. Although of minor
importance, it is sometimes useful to
include in a definition where the thing (a
specific term refers to) may be found.

The following is an illustrative example taken from
the book entitled TECHNICAL WRITING FOR
RESEARCH, REPORTS, AND BUSINESS
LETTERS by Tendero et. al:
BIOGAS
Biogas (species) typicall refers to a gas (genus)
produced by the biological breakdown of organic
matter in the absence of oxygen (differentia).
Biogas originates from biogenic material and is a
type of bio-fuel (word derivation). One type of
biogas is produced by anaerobic digestion or
fermentation of biodegradable materials such as
biomass, manure or sewage, municipal waste, and
energy crops (examples and instances). This type
of biogas comprises primarily of methane and
carbon dioxide (basic principle). The other principal
type of biogas is wood gas which is created by
gasification of wood or other biomass. This type of
biogas is comprised primarily of nitrogen,
hydrogen, and carbon monoxide, with trace
amounts of methane (comparison).
The gases methane, hydrogen, and carbon
monoxide can be combusted or oxidized with
oxygen. Air contains 21% oxygen. This energy
release allows biogas to be used as a fuel
(analysis). Biogas can be used as a low-cost fuel in
any country for any heating purpose, such as
cooking. It cal also be utilized in modern waste
management facilities where it can be used to run
any type of engine, to generate either mechanical
or electric power (cause and effect). Biogas is a
renewable fuel and electricity produced from it can
be used to attract renewable energy subsidies in
some part of the world. It can be produced utilizing
anaerobic digesters. These plants can be fed with
energy crops such as maize silage or biodegradable
wastes including sewage sludge and food waste
(further definition).

Source: Biomethane fuelled vehicles. The
Carbon Neutral Option. Claverton Energy
Conference, October 24, 2008, IBoth, UK
(Found exactly at page 12 of the book entitled,
Technical Writing for Research, Reports, and
Business Letters.)

According to Mills and Walters, there is no single
way or method in amplifying a definition.
Corollarily, it is not a requirement to use all of
them. Generally, a technical writer must always
assess how much information his target readers
should know in order to determine how much he
would need to amplify the definition of a particular
term he aims to impart with his readers.

REFERENCES:
TECHNICAL WRITING (Fifth Edition) by
Gordon H. Mills and John A. Walter;

Technical Writing for Research, Reports,
and Business Letters by Edwin V. Tendero,
Natalia C. Tanuecoz, Dolores N. Bongat,
Flora D. Canare, Carina B. Garcia, and
Romulo S. Gutierrez